This is the story of a little boy whose life began in idyllic circumstances, surrounded by love and culture in Kovno, Lithuania , a world center for Jewry in both religious and cultural terms. His mother, the stronger parent, was a nurse, a poet, and an ardent Zionist.
She was daring and creative. Eilati’s father, a professor and lecturer, but the more passive of the couple, and an early deportee to labor camps, did survive, albeit barely. His sister fell victim to a false savior, a gentile woman the mother had contacted while the family was in the ghetto; she promised to hide the little sister of the author, but turned the child over to the Nazis. His mother, the author is convinced, must have died while fighting.
While still a young boy Eilati was sent on his journey of escape from the ghetto through the initiative of his mother. He survived unbelievable experiences and never forgot the righteous gentiles who sheltered him. After the war, he accepted the invitation of his laconic father to join him in Israel; there, while his father could not allow himself to ever think or express the pain of having lost his loved ones, the younger Eilati eventually attained many professional goals.
It is, however, his powers of description that capture the reader: the scenes of the ghetto (at first an adventure and replete with culture, later a tragedy); the many places in which, after his escape, he found temporary refuge; the idiosyncrasies of people he met along the way. All through this, like a distant but ever present dirge, is his personal turmoil as he searches for his sister, his mother, and his father. It will resonate with all book lovers that whenever he encountered books, whether those gathered and hidden in the ghetto, or those he came across during his many adventures — including in languages he could not read — even those from a former German officer’s library, enthralled him and lifted him to another dimension, transporting him to a future he hoped he would someday attain. Writing this memoir has helped Eilati unlock the puzzles of his past and enabled him to reconcile his present life with the images, feelings, and thoughts that continue to haunt him. The Epilogue describes his two trips back to the scenes described in the book. Illustrations.